What did we use 80's home computers for?



I've been watching this new series of BBC tv programs on the history of technology. Now, when I was in my early/mid teens in the 80's I had a Commodore Vic20 and later a Commodore 64, and from what I remember, all I used them for was games. This was the case for every other kid I knew but the maketing forces had people believe that these home computers were of use to the whole family for a number of different applications. So I was wondering, exactly what the hell did they do apart from the games? Did anybody here actually make use of this apparently vital and multifunctional, new technology?

Ariff Roose

I wasn't born yet!! :D Im curious what they did compared to my Dell!!

Neil Gault

Feb 21, 2008
myself i used to be quite active in various bulletin boards and was just last night chatting to the sys op of one that i used to use, i guess the were the forerunner to the forums that we all use nowadays.

Richard Kay

Aug 14, 2008
I had a ZX81, Vic20, Sony HitBit MSX, and Amiga before I turned to PC's back in the days of 386's. All I ever used them for were games, until the Amiga, with which I got into Noisetracker and making music from samples.

Omer Said

Oct 28, 2008
My oldest PC was a 486.

I was playing FIFA 94 and Destruction Derby. Wow i was having so much fun with them. Even more than today's games. :good:

Paulo Ribeiro

Animals and Racing Lover
Oct 13, 2008
I surelly miss intirely nights playing Sprectum. The down side was the time loading....ZzzZzzzZZzzzz :waiting: I still have almost 100 little tapes with the games. Some of them with only one game and a few with 20-30 games each.
But my very first game was this one:



would. you. like. to. play. a. game? :becky:
How about a nice game of chess?
...Not for me thanks mate, it's a bit taxing on the brain that one. I'll have a quick blast on this 'Global thermonuclear war' though, I've always fancied myself as a bit of a politician... Is it anything like missile-command?
myself i used to be quite active in various bulletin boards and was just last night chatting to the sys op of one that i used to use, i guess the were the forerunner to the forums that we all use nowadays.
I remember talk of connecting computers over the phone in the 80's but I never thought it was ever something for home users unless they had a dad working high up in the government/military. What hardware did you use and how/where did you learn how to do it? Also, what year did you first connect? I am genuinely interested by the way because it was quite an exclusive activity for the time. I remember thinking about how handy word processing would be but even something as banal as a printer was beyond my technological or financial grasp so the illusive modem was something of a mysterious black-art for me and my friends.

Mike Hill

Jan 26, 2009
Back then when all was new, I was an early adopter into computing. At the age of about 9, I got a kit to build a ZX80 (which me and a mate put together instead of an Airfix lancaster bomber!) shortly afterwards I got a ZX81 and my sister had a Vic 20.

Afterwards, everything went into the Sinclair/commodore wars in the UK - and elsewhere I think! - I was definately on the speccy side of things. By the age of 13 I was programming my Speccy 48 in assembly and making some of my own basic games. I also used it to catalogue and index my already growing record collection too.

I graduated through the speccy ranks all the way upto a +2a. At this point, there were a couple of independant home computer stores in my home town and the new machines were coming out. Yay, a new war started - Atari ST vs Commodore Amiga. Here, there was no real choice for me, ST all the way because I could use it for MIDI studio stuff really well, even though I was jealous of the Amiga's better graphics.

At this point I started to collect a few of the older machines. At one point I had my entire loft converted with all of the computers set up (I used to buy them from the local shop when they were traded in against new models from the money I used to make "fencing" Speccy tapes and Amiga/ST cracks that I had obtained!). From memory I have owned:

Tatung Einstien
Dragon 32 and 64
Oric 32
Commodore Vic 20/64
Acorn Electron
BBC Master
Spectrum 48K/128+/128+2a (and the SAM Coupe - wish I still had that!)
Amstrad CPC6128
Atari 1024 STFM
Commodore Amiga A500+
Acorn Archimedes (This was a beast at the time! 32 bit RISC processor, Awesome bit of kit that is responsible for the ARM chip in most peoples mobiles today!)
RM Nimbus

I always intended to keep all of the computers I ever owned, but sadly one day that plan was ruined by a fire, where I lost most of the equipment. I still have my Amiga, Speccy 128+2a and Vic 20 though, and sometimes they get brought out for nostalgia nights with my mates. Sensible soccer anyone?

Kinda went through the tech version of the "Wilderness" years for a while, bands/girls/alcohol/drugs do that to you and didnt rejoin the computer race until 386's were just starting to fade away and the 486 arrived. Been catching up ever since!


Mike, that's quite a history you have there. I was particularly interested to read of the zx80 - they're quite collectable now apparently. You put one together at age 9 and you were programming games at 13? My God you must have received some wedgies at school. I have to quietly admit though, that was the kind of thing which I envied. (the computer know-how... not the wedgies!!)

Bert Van Waes

I played the first flight simulator on it, my dad came home with a pc and he was excitingly talking to me about it. I was very young and couldn't understand a word about the sim. he was very excited, and the day after he came home with a floppy (love this word) and on that floppy was autorun.exe, my god what a game back then. Some green colors, and three stages if i remember correctly. The last one in the mountains. The car could skid away and drop of the mountain road, kZZZZZZZZZccchh, and it was all over, great first game.

The pc after that was a 386 i think. With the first real good game, time commando.

Great stuff from the past...:)